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The Role of Genetics in Dental Health: What You Can Control

The Role of Genetics in Dental Health: What You Can Control

The Role of Genetics in Dental Health: What You Can Control
Dr. Jones
September 26, 2023

Do genetics affect dental health? They can. They can play a role in gum disease, tooth loss, cavities, and other oral health issues. It’s estimated that about 60% of tooth decay issues are tied to genetics. But, there are things you can do to protect your oral health and prevent cavities and gum disease.

The Role of Genetics and Your Oral Health

All children receive one chromosome from each parent, and those chromosomes can pass on a specific trait or disease. That’s known as the Mendelian inheritance pattern. You also have autosomal dominant disorders to consider. It states that a parent has a 50/50 chance of passing on a mutated autosomal dominant gene to a child, but if the disorder is autosomal recessive, the odds drop to 25%. 

Keeping those odds in mind, dental caries and the formation of plaque are based on the microbiome within your mouth. When you have something sugary, it feeds the bacteria in your mouth, creating plaque. Genetics plays a part in this microbiome. Genetics can also impact how responsive your salivary glands are, which determines how much saliva is present to wash away some of the plaque bacteria.

In addition, genetics also play a part in how well your teeth mineralize and form the protective enamel covering. For a tooth to mineralize, you need amelogenin and enamelin. If genetics allow for diseases like molar incisor hypomineralization (defective formation of enamel in molars and permanent teeth) or amelogenesis imperfecta (the abnormal formation of enamel), cavities are more likely to form. In all, 14 possible gene defects can impact oral health. If you look at all of them, there are common problems with these defects.

  • Increased risk of cavities
  • Spotted, mottled, or discolored teeth
  • Undersized teeth
  • Weakened or underdeveloped enamel

Genetics’ role in the biome and salivary content has been studied, and it’s found that the impact of genetics can impact oral health by as little as 20% or as much as 85%. Much of this is based on other factors, such as diet, obesity, socioeconomic status, fluoride exposure, and how often you practice proper oral care.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Teeth and Gums?

How do you take care of your oral health when genetics are working against you?

Brush Your Teeth Properly

Take care of your teeth and gums by making sure you’re flossing and brushing properly every day. What are your current brushing habits? Chances are high you’re making a common mistake. If you brush your teeth right after you have breakfast or dinner, you’re impacting your dental health.

It’s best to brush your teeth at least an hour before your next meal or an hour after you eat or drink anything. After you eat, your enamel is weakened. If you immediately brush weakened enamel, you risk damaging it. Give your saliva time to rinse the foods you eat away, and once you’ve brushed your teeth, allow an hour for the fluoride from your toothpaste or mouth rinse to do its job of strengthening your enamel.

Choose a Toothpaste Designed to Strengthen the Enamel

Toothpaste that strengthens enamel can have a higher fluoride content than others. Use these products to help protect and improve the enamel on your teeth. Avoid abrasive toothpaste ingredients, such as charcoal. An alcohol-free mouth rinse that’s high in fluoride is also helpful if you want to rinse your mouth between brushings.

If you have weak enamel, ask your dentist about prescription products. It can help battle the impact genetics have on your oral health.

Brush Twice Per Day and Floss Once Per Day

Brush just twice per day. If you brush more often, you can damage the enamel. If you don’t like eating a meal without brushing after, consider chewing gum that contains xylitol instead. Xylitol is a sugar found naturally in fruit and vegetables, but it’s found to destroy certain bacteria that lead to cavities. If you chew gum after lunch, you help remove stuck-on foods and lower the bacteria that damage the teeth.

Once a day, make sure you floss between your teeth and around the back molars. If you want to floss more than once per day, consider investing in a water flosser that uses water to blast food particles out from between the teeth. A fluoride mouth rinse can be mixed with water.

Choose the Right Toothbrush

Does your toothbrush have hard, medium, or soft bristles? Many people go for the hardest bristle thinking they remove more plaque. Soft bristles are better, as hard bristles are damaging to the gums. Plaque isn’t as hard as you might think, so soft bristles are perfectly suitable.

Electric toothbrushes can be far more effective than manual ones. When the bristles are moving using sonic waves or rapid oscillation, more plaque is removed. The other benefit is that the small circles designed for effective cleaning are hard to replicate by hand. An oscillating electric toothbrush head takes care of the small circles for you.

Don’t Push Too Hard

Brushing with too much pressure damages the enamel and harms the gums. Use as little pressure as possible. This is another reason an electric toothbrush is useful. Some of the smart toothbrush options have lights that flash when you’re brushing too hard. 

Brush For Two Minutes

Brush for a full two minutes. Set a timer on your phone or invest in a toothbrush that buzzes when you’ve brushed for 30 seconds. You want to spend 30 seconds per quadrant and move on. Once you’ve brushed your bottom right and left teeth and your top right and left teeth, you’ve completed two minutes.

See a Dentist Regularly

Make sure you see your dentist twice a year. If you have gum disease, you might need to go three or four times each year. During this visit, you’ll have your teeth professionally cleaned, polished, and examined. Periodic X-rays help find cavities in the earliest stages. A dental exam also checks your gums for signs of gum disease, and once a year, an oral cancer screening is also performed.

Do you have a dentist? Are you one of the 3% who don’t see a dentist at all due to their dental anxiety? If so, there are options available that help ease the anxiety you experience during a dental visit. Instead of skipping this essential oral health exam, consider seeing a dentist who specializes in dental anxiety.

Choose Dr. Jody Jones

Nashville’s Dr. Jody Jones offers sedation dentistry. You’re not completely sedated, but a mild sedative is given just enough to help you stay calm without being fully under. You’ll be alert to what’s going on, but you won’t experience the fear and anxiety that keep you from wanting to return.

Schedule a visit with Jody Jones DDS in Nashville. Get your teeth cleaned and any problems addressed, and make sure the steps you’re taking to protect your oral health from genetic issues are working well.